On Obama's coattails

 

Westerners inspired by Barack Obama have a right to feel giddy these days: The history-making wave that swept the Democrat into the presidency Nov. 4 had a lot of impact around the region. It lifted a surprising number of other Democrats into offices that had long been held by Republicans, many of whom were seen as obstacles to change. The winning Democrats promise to be better on protecting the environment, more supportive of clean energy and more even-handed on immigration and other Western issues.

Obama took six of the 11 Western states, spreading the Democrats' apparent majority inland from the West Coast to include Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico. He did it with a record-breaking $1 billion national campaign war chest, including hundreds of millions spent by unions on his behalf -- a huge financial advantage over his Republican opponent, John McCain -- and by running the most determined Democratic presidential campaign ever in the West.

In Colorado, the Obama campaign had 51 field offices -- many in conservative rural areas -- and the spark provided by the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Obama himself made calls to potential Colorado voters from a field office in a Denver suburb. Just a few days before the election, he drew more than 100,000 people -- said to be the biggest political crowd in Colorado history -- to a Denver speech.

In Nevada, where Democrats scheduled a primary in early February to spark enthusiasm, Obama made 20 visits in all, including three to the mining community of Elko, where he spoke in the town park and accepted a shirt bearing the name of the high-school football team (the Elko Indians). Nevada State Sen. Dina Titus, a political science professor, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that she won a U.S. House seat thanks in part to Obama's ground game, "the best she'd seen in 20 years of politics."

In New Mexico, the Obama campaign opened nearly 40 field offices. In out-of-the-way Montana -- where Obama came within a few percentage points of a rare Democratic win -- he opened 19 and made five campaign visits, and his campaign dispatched Los Angeles Lakers basketball star Derek Fisher to speaking engagements on the Blackfeet Reservation.

Obama received more votes than the last Democratic candidate for president, John Kerry, in 404 of the 413 counties in the West, indicating that a new order may be taking command of the region's politics. That impression was reinforced on the congressional level: Western Democrats took three Senate seats that had been Republican (in Colorado, New Mexico and Oregon). They took at least six House seats from Western Republicans, while losing no Democratic seats in either chamber of Congress.

Democrats also gained more seats on public utilities commissions in Montana and Arizona, with candidates who vow to put more emphasis on development of wind and solar energy.

But Obama's hopeful message, his call for fundamental change and unification, will meet resistance in the West from here on out, especially on the level of local politics.

High Country News Classifieds
  • SEASONAL SAN JUAN RANGERS
    Seeking experienced crew members to patrol Colorado's most iconic mountain wilderness.
  • ENDANGERED SPECIES STAFF SCIENTIST
    The Center for Biological Diversity seeks a staff scientist to advocate for the conservation of endangered species. General position overview: The position will involve working...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY - ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH PROGRAM
    The Center for Biological Diversity - a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection of imperiled plants, animals and wild places - seeks a dynamic...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    The Center for Biological Diversity seeks a Staff Attorney to join our team of attorneys, scientists, campaigners who are working to protect America's public lands...
  • SOUTHWEST CONSERVATION ADVOCATE
    The Center for Biological Diversity seeks a Southwest Conservation Advocate to join our team of attorneys, scientists and campaigners who are working to protect America's...
  • OCEANS PROGRAM CAMPAIGNER
    The Center for Biological Diversity seeks an experienced campaigner for its oceans program. The aim of the position is to campaign for the protection of...
  • CLIMATE LAW INSTITUTE ATTORNEY
    The Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute is looking to add an attorney to its team and will consider applicants at both staff attorney...
  • FULL-TIME CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR
    The Center for Biological Diversity seeks a full-time Campaign Director in our Climate Law Institute to join our campaign for progressive, urgent government action to...
  • WESTERN WATER PROJECT MANAGER
    National Wildlife Federation is hiring NM-based position focused on riparian corridors, watershed health. Learn more and apply online: https://www.nwf.org/about-us/careers
  • ASSOCIATE PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Position Title: Associate Program Director Location: New Mexico; flexible in state Position reports to: Senior Program Director Position Closes: March 13, 2020 GENERAL DESCRIPTION: The...
  • DEAN, W. A. FRANKE COLLEGE OF FORESTRY AND CONSERVATION, UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA
    Dean, W. A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, apply http://bit.ly/2548umjobs. AA/EEO/ADA/Veterans Preference Employer
  • GRAPHIC DESIGNER
    Western Resource Advocates (WRA) seeks a creative and driven graphic design professional to design high quality print and digital collateral. The Graphic Designer will bring...
  • STEWARDSHIP SPECIALIST
    San Isabel Land Protection Trust seeks experienced person to manage its 133 conservation easements in south-central Colorado.
  • CAMPAIGN REPRESENTATIVE
    Sierra Club's Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign is hiring an experienced campaigner to lead our work challenging the oil and fracked gas industry on the Gulf...
  • AG LANDS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Oregon Agricultural Trust (OAT) seeks passionate relationship builder experienced in coordinating agricultural conservation easement transactions.
  • REMOTE SITKA ALASKA FLOAT HOUSE VACATION RENTAL
    Vacation rental located in calm protected waters 8 miles from Sitka, AK via boat with opportunities to fish and view wildlife. Skiff rental also available.
  • FINANCE DIRECTOR
    Mountain Studies Inst (MSI) is hiring 4+ positions: Finance Director; Coms/Engagmnt Mngr; Dev/Engagmnt Dir; Americorps vol
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND ENGAGEMENT MANAGER
    Mountain Studies Inst (MSI) is hiring 4+ positions: Finance Director; Dev/Engagement Dir; Coms/Engagement Mngr; & Americorps volunteer
  • SEASONAL TRAIL CREW LEADERS
    Lead the nation's premier volunteer-based trail crew programs on the spectacular Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. This is a great career-building opportunity for rising professionals....
  • ORGANIZING AND TRAINING COORDINATOR
    Is this your dream job? Are you looking to join a nationally recognized organizing network, live in a spectacular part of the West, and work...